Exploded Dreams

I began my morning this day watching video of Pastor Ingrid walking around the neighborhood where Holy Trinity is located near Lake Street in Minneapolis. Pastor Ingrid is one of the pastors there. Holy Trinity has been serving as a medic station and being God’s hands and feet in this time. As I watched, my heart broke. Years of inequality led to this response. George Floyd should not have been murdered.

Then a few days, after George’s death, a police officer in Grand Forks, ND was killed in the line of duty. Officer Cody Holte was living out his calling when he was shot. Again my heart breaks.

The juxtaposition of these two deaths this week ways incredibly heavy on my heart. A man Cody Holte who was upholding the law and serving out his vocation in life shot while doing so. Another man George Floyd who was simply killed because of the color of his skin.

As the smoke fills the air, I know we must do better. A friend shared some reflection questions this morning that I am sitting with today and for the days to come. Where is their anger coming from? What would it feel like to fear those who are supposed to protect you?

My heart breaks again. Years of injustice laid out before our very eyes. “The violence and destruction that we have experienced the last two nights are symptoms of generations of inequality.” (Pr. Ingrid Rasmussen) Do you hear it? Do you see it? Or are you blind to it?

For far to long, I’ve been blind, but I can no longer be blind to it. Yet I know because of my own white privilege, I’ve failed. I’ve failed at speaking up for my friends with brown and black bodies when they’ve encountered racism. Because of my own white privilege, I have not feared when a police officer has pulled me over. Because of my own white privilege, I’d much rather sit in my own comfort than stand in discomfort speaking up for justice.

No longer, friends! I will speak up when I see racism happening. I will stand in my own discomfort naming the injustices of our world. I will name all the times I’ve let my own white privilege lead to my complacency. I will do all of these things so this doesn’t happen again. I will speak the names of those who can no longer speak their own names: George Floyd, Armaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin and so many others…because they were killed unjustly.

Today I will also speak the name of Officer Cody Holte who was one of the good cops…who lived his calling passionately…to serve and protect ALL people.

Death swirls all around us. Death will happen as long as their is injustice, evil and hate in our broken sinful world. And because of death, are dreams deferred or do they explode in the words of the Langston Hughes poem “Harlem?”

Harlem By Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

As fires blaze, as officers stand to protect the neighborhood, as Holy Trinity reaches out to serve their neighbor, we see that dreams deferred explode. Explode because of injustice and inequality. Explode because of hate and evil. Explode because of sinfulness.

Jesus, give us eyes and ears to see and hear injustice. Jesus, come and bring your peace; the peace that passes all human understanding.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

The Way Forward

The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “forward.”

How do we move forward when there is so much injustice, so much hatred?

Why must children of God fear for their lives when they walk outside?

Why does division, hatred, and evil lurk in our world?

Is it because we are sinful beings? Daily sinning and turning away from God?

We must move forward, bring about justice by saying their names.

We must learn from those who do their jobs without inflicting harm on others.

I want to move forward. I, we must take that first step. We must speak and share Gods love in this broken world. We must call upon the injustices we see. We must…and can do better.

“In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.”-Albert Einstein

For the way forward is….Gods love!

For These We Prayed

There are times in our life when God brings special people into our lives. Special people that turn from friends to family=framily. Leslye, her late husband Jim and their kids have become that for my sister and I!

Leslye and her sister used to babysit my sister and I. Then we babysat for her kids. Those kids are my “adopted” nieces and nephew. They hold a special place in my heart. We have laughed together. We have cried together. We have loved each other.

I stood before Leslye and Jim’s oldest daughter Lexi and married her to her best friend in her grandparents front yard. I sat with them and cried humongous tears when Jim died in a car accident. I wanted so deeply to take the ache away for all of them. Not only were they grieving but I was too. Jim had shared his family with us. Somewhere along the line, we had become family.

Three years ago, their second daughter McKenzie and her husband began fostering two little girls. Today those two girls officially became theres after a long long journey. It’s hard to put into words how much joy and love I feel with and for them even though I can’t celebrate with them yet.

God indeed answers prayers. It’s not always in our timing but in God’s timing. God is a faithful God. I trust in that promise as our days, in the midst of this pandemic, are filled even more with continuous prayers. Yet this answered prayer today solidifies that our God is a faithful faithful God.

And because of this adoption, I still feel the pull to foster. I still feel God calling me to mother in this way. And as these two sweet girls lay their heads down for the night, a forever home above their heads, I am reminded that God is here and faithful.

God will answer your prayers. God will answer my prayers; the deep desires of my heart. And as those prayers are answered, I/we will be surrounded by the love of family and friends who have become family.

For our God is a faithful God, who always hears us prayers and brings about the beautiful and holy of what it means to love and be loved.

To Refrain or Not to Refrain?

The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “refrain!”

My hands deep in flour. The stove preheating. Cutting peaches and placing them in the cast iron skillet. Mixing the topping and pouring it over the peach mixture. 45 minutes later, a fresh peach cobbler comes out of the oven.

I couldn’t refrain from cutting into it. I cut a piece and placed it on my plate. I took a bite. The warm peach cobbler felt so yummy in my mouth. I can’t wait to eat some more later.

I’ve found so much joy in the kitchen in these days. I love baking and cooking. However, it sure is hard to refrain from all these yummy goodies when it’s just my cats and I in the house. I wish I could share with all of you!

I’m sure there will be more baking and cooking. Will you help me refrain from eating it all? Tell me I can freeze it. Or tell me that it is ok not to refrain during this time of uncertainty as long as I eat in moderation.

The Legacy of a Woman of Valor

We feel the sting of death as the tears stream down our faces. We feel the sting of death when we can no longer hug those we love. We can feel the sting of death as we watch our friends child grow up without him or her. We feel the sting of death when something we watch or ,siren to immediately makes us think of those who gave gone before us. We feel the sting of death when the anniversary of death looms upon us.

A year ago tomorrow (May 4, 2019), we lost beloved author Rachel Held Evans. Rachel was wife to Dan. Rachel was mother to Henry and Harper. Rachel was big sister to Amanda. Rachel was a daughter. Rachel was a friend to many. Rachel was a theologian, a revolutionary and most of all a woman of valor. Her words were and continue to be a gift.

I first met Rachel through her words when I read her book “Searching for Sunday.” I wanted to be her friend. I wanted to sit over coffee and talk theology with her. I wanted to ask her all the questions. But most of all, I wanted to be like her. I wanted to stand in the in between with her. I wanted to be as wise as she was.

In the midst of a pandemic, I yearn for her words. I want her to tell us how we will get through this time. I want her to make us laugh so we can find joy and blessing in this uncertain time. I want her to sit with us in the darkness knowing and reminding us that light will come. That the darkness will not overcome. Mary Magdalene will still come to the tomb in the dark and find it empty for Jesus has still been resurrected. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there (Clarence W Hall).”

Death has been defeated. Rachel still lives on through those who knew and loved her. Her words carry us through on the hard days and the not so hard days. Yet we still miss her. Her readers wish they could pick up another of her books. Her friends and family miss her deeply.

The tears do not come often these days, but they still come. Grief has a way of doing that finding its way in when we least expect it. The tears are a reminder that grief is holy and sacred work. Tears remind us of the gift of life of Rachel Held Evans; woman of valor: an example for us.

Because of the sting of death and this gorgeous woman of valor, I strive everyday to be a woman of valor too. May we sit with tax collectors and sinners. May we sit with the doubters. May we all strive to be women of valor, men of valor, people of valor….for by doing so we honor the life and legacy of Rachel Held Evans,

Being Present

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve joined in with the Five Minute Friday. I don’t know about you all, but I’m over spending all this time in my house. This whole situation is wearing on me. The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “distraction.”

It’s a situation that we didn’t expect. We didn’t expect to be quarantined to our houses. I’m so over being in my house with my fur babies. Yet I know this is the best thing for my neighbors and I. We must protect one another. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

I’m finding ways to distract myself….finding distractions in the midst of my day. I’ve been cooking and baking up a storm. Today it was bacon cheddar cups from the new Magnolia Table cookbook. I find such joy in the kitchen. I just wish I could share with all of you. I don’t want to put on the quarantine fifteen. I’m also becoming my own barista!

I’m spending so much time with my fur babies. I love them so much and without them, I’d be so much lonelier. They are pure gift of grace in these days. Nevy had surgery on Thursday so he’s been very cuddly which is my favorite.

I’m writing more letters. I’m trying to remember to call and text those I love more. I’m Voxing with my friends. I’m reading again. I’m finding new ways to be creative. I’m watching my friends use their gifts and creativity. My friend Tyra just released a song titled “Born to Reign.” (Check it out here:https://soundcloud.com/tyralucia/born-to-reign)

My friend Kayla has her own media business. A week ago, I did a virtual photo shoot with her. She FaceTimed me and she took pictures with her camera. I’m absolutely in love with my photos. Here’s a few of my favorites. (Photos:The Storyteller Media)

These are just a few ways I’ve found to lean into being present even in the midst of a pandemic. How have you leaned into being present?

Another Day

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve joined in with the Five Minute Friday. I don’t know about you all, but I’m over spending all this time in my house. The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “another.” 

Another day

No physical touch

Another day

Of distance learning

Another day

6 feet apart

Social distancing

Another day

Waiting

Wondering

Watching

Another day

Asking God

To calm anxious hearts

Another day

Of loss

Of grief

Of disappointment

Another day

Yearning

To be with family

And friends

Another day

Searching for laughter

And joy

Another day

Stuck between the despair

Of Good Friday

And the joy of

Easter morning

Another day

The stone has been rolled away

The tomb is empty

Christ has gone ahead of us

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

Alleluia!

The Strangest Easter

I woke up this morning and looked out my window. it was snowing. If it weren’t for the calendar on the wall, I would have thought I had entered some strange dimension and it was Christmas not Easter! Yet we are in a world that has been flipped upside. In a lot of ways, we are living in a new dimension.

New York City’s Times Square is not bustling with people. Broadway’s lights have been turned off. Our grocery stores are filled with people buying groceries with masks on. Our sanctuaries are empty. The Olympics will not happen this summer but instead they will happen next summer. Our essential workers are all putting themselves on the line for the safety of all of us.

Yet today is still Easter. We are filled with all the same emotions that come with loss and grief and were the same emotions Mary Magdalene & Mary felt that very first Easter morning. We are frightened and afraid. We are full of anxiety. We are lonely. And we are sad!

That’s the thing about death. When someone we love dies, we grieve. We want them to still be here on this side of heaven with us. Yet the dead don’t come back to life. Only God has the power to overcome death. God sent God’s Son into the world for us. Jesus was murdered for love but then three days later, he was raised.

The tomb is empty! Jesus has been raised. He has gone ahead of us. There are days to come that it will still feel like we are stuck in an eternal Holy Saturday; stuck between despair and hope. The hope however comes in knowing that the tomb is still empty. Jesus is here.

Yes, there are days that we will not want today to come. However when we are lonely from being separated from the rest of the world, the tomb is empty. When we are frustrated with our children, the tomb is empty. When there are overwhelming amounts of death, the tomb is empty. When we feel like all hope is lost, the tomb is empty. When this pandemic eventually ends, the tomb is still empty. Christ has overcome death. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there (Clarence W Hall)!”

In a broken world, filled with all those same emotions the women felt that first Easter morning, we cry out, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. As we too, like the disciples, are locked away from the rest of the world, we cry out, “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Together, as the body of Christ and for such a time as this, we cry out confidently “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”

Tomorrow we might come to the tomb and still think we see the stone is still in front of it. But the stone has been rolled away. Death has been defeated. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! That’s a promise I can trust in. And when I can’t say the words, I know that the rest of the body will say them for me until I can say them again. So if you can’t say them today, know that I’m saying them for and with you.

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The Gratefulness of Tears

Usually I have no problem letting the tears come out. But this year, the tears have been sitting on the edge, welling up inside of me. I wanted so desperately for them to come out. Little did I know how much I needed the holiness of the triduum (the three days leading up to Easter).

I have needed to sit at the foot of the cross. I have needed to cry holy tears at that cross. I have needed to sit in the liminal space of Holy Saturday. I don’t know about you friends, but the world feels like Holy Saturday every day right now. We are stuck between the reality of despair and hope. We are continually crying out “How long, oh Lord?!” Yet the answer is unanswered. We do not know how long this night will last.

After leading worship on Maundy Thursday, I came home and sat down on my couch. I pulled up YouTube and began watching the beauty of the Triduum Project unfold. There was vulnerability shared in storytelling. There was bread baking. There were people who invited us in to sit with them at their family table. There was prayer. There was laughter and tears. There was music of all shapes and sizes. There was simply so much holiness.

As I have broke bread and wine and held vigil with all of these holy people, the tears have finally let loss. I am crying for the reality and pain of our world. I am crying that we murdered love as our Lord was crucified and hung on a tree. I am crying as we sit in the midst of an eternal Lent and Holy Saturday. I am crying and marked by the cross of Christ. I am crying tears that will not stop. Tears that remind me that the sun is going down but tomorrow the sun will rise again.

This Easter vigil has been one of the holiest things I’ve ever experienced. Gathered from all ends of the earth, I have been reminded that the church is still very much alive. I have seen the beauty of the body of Christ coming together as we walk to the empty tomb. I know more and more that I am not a lone and we are in this together.

In a few hours, the vigil will end and we will gather to raise a glass for Jesus; for the one who died for each of us. And as we raise our glasses, the tears will come again. But this time, they will come knowing that morning will come again. We just don’t know how long this morning will be. The tears will be a sign of healing. The tears will be in thankfulness and hope. A hope that was embodied over three days in a holy online experience that the church has needed in this time and place.

Tonight, the tears are rolling freely down my face! And I am so grateful!

A Unique Holy Easter Vigil

I am no stranger to loss and grief; no stranger to death. From October 2017-December 2018, there were nine losses in my life…friends, colleagues, and family. Death is a part of life. However, I would prefer not to stay there. Death can be so overwhelming. In fact, we are at a time in our world when the death seems so incredibly overwhelming. I need Holy Week more this year than ever!

Yet I honestly had low expectations. Palm Sunday didn’t include kids singing and shouting hosanna as they waved palm branches. I knew that I wasn’t going to get to wash my parishioners feet. I knew that there would be no first communion. I knew that there would be no stripping of the altar. I felt so lost walking into Holy Week. Yet a few weeks ago, I was asked to be a part of this really cool thing called The Triduum Project. Creative souls coming together to hold vigil over three days.

Little did I know what a gift holding vigil would be in the midst of this peculiar and strange Holy Week. I love what Jason said on Twitter about holding vigil. His words really spoke to me as I debated whether to go to bed or stay awake until my hour. After reading them, I knew that I needed to stay awake. Jason wrote, “There’s something sacred about being up when you’re used to sleeping. It’s like you’re delineating with your body that this time is different. It’s set apart. Consecrated time, a concept that isn’t the worst thing for your self–Sabbath-deprived tradition to consider.”

I was awake when I am never awake. I found myself sitting and holding watch as we entered into the day Jesus was murdered for our sins. I got to see the sun set and the sun rise. I thought of all those working in the hospitals in the midst of the Co-Vid19.

After preaching Maundy Thursday worship, I came home and listened to Tyra and so many other musicians usher us from Maundy Thursday into Good Friday. Their music balm to my soul. In the wee hours of the morning, Jason made the passion story come alive in a way I will never forget. Joe and David talked honestly and allowed me to be vulnerable and cry the tears I needed to shed. There was also beautiful storytelling. There was bread baking.

This is all holy! An idea that came together over a few weeks has totally been blessed by God’s Spirit. A vigil that embodies the beauty of the body of Christ. Together we are caring for the body as we walk to the cross and stand tears streaming down our face. We are not alone. We see each other standing at the foot of the cross.

The Triduum Project is an incredible gift to the church in a time when we need to be together. We need to grieve together. We need to see each other’s stories. We need to hold vigil until the stone is rolled away. This, my friends, has been and continues to be holy space! There will be no other vigil that compares to this one.